The All-Star team for young players is a chicken and an egg problem.
Are players on the All-Star team because of their individual brilliance or does individual brilliance only shine because a team is winning?
There is almost certainly some correlation between a team’s performance and their appearance at the NBA’s winter showcase game. Fans tend to reward players who are popular but they also tend to reward players on winning teams.
Coaches, who vote on the reserves, certainly reward players on winning teams over individual statistics. And even some of the debates fans and media have about the All-Star game are which teams deserve multiple All-Star representatives.
The All-Star Game tells the story of the season. And so who gets the call to the weekend is about narrative as much as anything.
The Orlando Magic are a team teeming with young talent ready to burst. Paolo Banchero had a historic rookie season and seems eager to improve in a lot of different ways. Franz Wagner is coming off a stellar FIBA World Cup championship run to build off a solid sophomore season.
The Orlando Magic have two players they believe can become All-Stars sooner than later. Whether they make the trip this winter to Indianapolis will depend more on the team’s success.
The Magic feel like they have two potential stars they can build around. And they would probably say that someone like Markelle Fultz still has the potential to be a star just as Wendell Carter, Jalen Suggs or even Cole Anthony could put up some eye-opening numbers.
The focus is clearly though on building around Banchero and Wagner. Those are the two players Orlando believes can reach that elite status and propel the team up the standings as they continue to get better.
How quickly then will the two reach All-Star status? What will Banchero and Wagner have to do to become All-Stars and represent the Magic in Indianapolis?
Neither is likely to be popular enough to unseat any returning All-Stars in the frontcourt — Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid and Jayson Tatum will have those spots locked down this year. So they will need to get the coaches’ notice to find their way to Indianapolis.
The obvious answer for the Magic is if they want one or both players to reach the All-Star game, they have to win. That is the overall goal for the season of course.The Magic want to play better basketball and that essentially means winning more.
But the key to the Magic getting any recognition on a national stage — especially with only one nationally televised game on the schedule, coming the Tuesday before All-Star Weekend — is to win. The formula is that simple.
Just looking back at first-time All-Stars last year, team performance and record had a lot to do with their appearance.
Tyrese Haliburton made his first All-Star appearance by leading the Indiana Pacers to a 26-34 record at the All-Star Break (24-27 on Jan. 27 when the All-Star reserves were announced). He averaged 19.9 points and 10.1 assists per game before the All-Star Break.
This was certainly a case of rewarding Haliburton both for his individual brilliance — the Pacers had one of the best offenses in the league — and for his team’s success. On Jan. 28, Indiana was sitting ninth in the East.
There was similar reasoning behind all the other first-time All-Stars too.
Jaren Jackson Jr. was on the second-place Memphis Grizzlies on his way to winning Defensive Player of the Year. Anthony Edwards had the Minnesota Timberwolves in sixth place at 27-25 in late January.
De’Aaron Fox similarly had the Sacramento Kings in third place at 27-21. Lauri Markkanen had the Utah Jazz at 26-26 holding onto the last postseason spot. And Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led the Oklahoma City Thunder to a surprising 24-25 record just outside the postseason picture. And Edwards and Fox were injury replacements.
Team success is a big part of first-time All-Stars getting their bid. Unless they have overwhelming numbers. Then again, Trae Young averaged 26.7 points per game and 10.3 assists per game and did not get an All-Star nod, much to his chagrin.
All-Star selection, especially among first-time honorees, is really all about team success. As always, if your team is winning, the accolades — whether they be national TV appearances or All-Star appearances — will follow.
One follows the other. Especially among coaches, what they value is winning and they will reward players as such.
There is clearly no magical statistical plateau for a player to reach. They just have to be making a positive impact on their team.
In a lot of ways, the numbers that both Banchero and Wagner are putting up are already at a star level.
Last year, Banchero averaged 20.0 points per game and 6.9 rebounds per game — 19.9 points and 6.6 rebounds per game before the All-Star Break. Wagner averaged 18.6 points per game last season and 18.9 per game before the All-Star Break.
That is comparable with a lot of the first-time All-Stars from last year:
|Pre-AS Other Stat
|Jaren Jackson Jr.
Just from a statistical comparison, both Banchero and Wagner could stand to up their counting stats — Jaren Jackson Jr. is comparable statistically but is considered a much bigger impactor defensively.
But those are not exactly sterling statistical profiles that scream All-Star. And remember both Edwards and Fox were injury replacement players.
It is clear then that the path for Banchero or Wagner to make the All-Star team is not simply about their individual numbers. It is about how well the Magic do overall.
The greatest reflection of a star is how they lead their team and the results that come because of their play. It is not solely about their numbers.
What Orlando wants to see develop in the team’s two young players is the confidence and the efficiency that will lead them to produce and lead them to help the team win more. That is what stars do.
Ultimately a team goes as far as its stars can take them. What the team does in return is win enough for those star players to earn the All-Star moniker.
The path to Indianapolis for Banchero or Wagner is really paved with team success in the end.